By Taiye Agbaje
The arraignment of staff members of the Oil and Gas Free Zone Authority (OGFZA) for alleged forgery and falsification of documents, was on Wednesday stalled because of the ongoing strike by the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN).
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that a Wuse Zone 2 Magistrate Court, Abuja, on March 16, gave the Commissioner of Police, FCT Command, three weeks to produce two staff of OGFZA; Mr Wasiu Sule, the Head of Legal Services and Secretary to OGFZA’s Board and Mr Alenju Ngofa, who is the Human Resource Head of the organisation, for arraignment.
The Magistrate, Mabel Segun-Bello, gave the order after counsel to the nominal complainant, Nkereuwem Akpan, informed the court that the accused persons had evaded service of court processes on them despite several attempts.
NAN reports that while the complainant is Mr Olufunmilayo David Omosule, the 1st and 2nd defendants are Sule and Ngofa respectively.
The magistrate also gave the police commissioner the go-ahead to investigate the defendants on allegations levelled against them.
Segun-Bello then adjourned the matter until April 26 for hearing.
OGFZA and Omosule had been locked in legal battle over the legality or otherwise of the plaintiff’s suspension, following his petition against some management staff of the agency on alleged corruption.
Omosule alleged that the defendants wilfully and maliciously distorted his records “to appear as though he does not possess any requisite qualification to be employed at OGFZA or any qualification at all to be considered for promotion.”
He said their action was tantamount to forgery and falsification of documents contrary to Section 363 and 364 of the Penal Code, which is detrimental and injurious to his person.
The agency had via a letter dated April 18, 2011, suspended Omosule as the manager of its Abuja office, on the grounds that he refused to comply with its letter dated Dec. 3, 2010, which had directed him to present the originals of his credentials for verification.
Omosule, however, refuted the claim of the authority, stating that he made available to the organisation, Certified True Copies (CTCs) of his educational certificates /credentials, including GCE ‘O Level certificates and degree certificates as instructed.
Omosule had claimed that the originals of his credentials were misplaced in untraceable circumstances as at 2010 when the report to submit originals was made.
The claimant also averred that the CTCs of his certificates submitted to the agency were certified by the issuing institutions, which included West African Examination Council and the University of Ado-Ekiti, then Ondo State University, Ado-Ekiti respectively.
The claimant is therefore seeking the court ‘s declaration that he was still a staff of the organisation and entitled to all the rights, privileges and benefits due to him by reason of his employment.
He is praying the court for an order directing the defendant to reinstate him to the position of a director, on grade level 17, a position he claimed his contemporaries were currently.
Omosule is equally seeking for the order of the court to direct the agency to pay all his outstanding salaries, benefits and entitlement since 2011.
In addition, he is asking the court to order the organisation to pay him the of N50 million as exemplary and general damages.
NAN reports that a verdict of the Federal High Court in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, had in January 2014, held that financial autonomy for the judiciary is a constitutional provision that must be complied with by the executive branch of government.NAN reports that on May 23, President Muhammadu Buhari signed into law the Executive Order to grant financial autonomy to the legislature and the judiciary across the 36 states of the country.
The order also mandates the accountant-general of the federation to deduct from source amount due to state legislatures and judiciaries from the monthly allocation to each state for states that refuse to grant such autonomy.
The Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, the Executive Order No. 10 of 2020, made it mandatory that all states of the federation should include the allocations of both the legislature and the judiciary in the first-line charge of their budgets.
According to the AGF, “a Presidential Implementation Committee was constituted to fashion out strategies and modalities for the implementation of financial autonomy for the State Legislature and State Judiciary in compliance with section 121(3) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as Amended).”
NAN reports that the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) said they will start implementing financial autonomy for the judiciary latest by May ending, a pledge that indicates that an end to the ongoing strike that has crippled the nation’s judiciary may be in sight.
The governors also called on striking members of the JUSUN to call off their two weeks old strike.
The chairman of the NGF, Gov. Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti, gave this assurance in an interview with journalists after meeting with ‘stakeholders’ from the state judiciary and legislature at the Presidential Villa in Abuja.
He said the modalities for the implementation were worked out at the meeting held at the Presidential Villa.
According to him, the meeting, chaired by the Chief of Staff to President Buhari, Ibrahim Gambari, was attended by the Solicitor-General of the Federation, the representatives of the judiciary, the representatives of the Conference of Speakers, and House of Representatives.
The first line charge status, which is being respected by the federal government in respect of the federal judiciary, entitles the state judiciaries to get funds due to them directly from the federation account.
The governors rushed to court in 2020 to challenge an executive order signed by President Buhari for the enforcement of the first line charge status of both the state judiciary and legislature.
They argued that executive order which directs the accountant-general of the federation to deduct funds meant for the state judiciaries and legislatures in the federation account and pay it to them was “unconstitutional”. (NAN)